After unfurling ourselves from the smallest minibus in the world, my patience was starting to waiver. Travelling is tiring and sometimes stressful (I was on a tour though, so I don’t think stress entered my vocabulary for the entire month) and travel days are often the most testing. So are fellow passengers who insist on hourly toilet stops and steal all the air conditioning leaving you to steam on the cramped back seat. You can imagine I wasn’t in the best of moods.
There are no roads to Livingston so our journey was not over. We piled our backpacks into a speedboat (a lancha, I’m told) and settled in for the hour and a half trip down the Rio Dulce.
It was beautiful. My bad mood was being blown away with the river’s spray and I laid back to let the wind tease and tangle my hair. We sped through towering limestone cliffs, covered in lush green forests. Through the mangroves we caught glimpses of homes of fishermen and local people as well as grand sailboats and catamarans parked up for the summer.
We took a quick walk around Livingston as soon as we arrived. There just wasn’t much there really. One street led from where our boat had docked to the beach on the otherside of town, which was dirty and didn’t smell particularly great. I didn’t linger. People going about their daily business, children playing football in the street and a few restaurants with the obligatory souvenir stands selling the same stuff you’ve seen everywhere. There was a strange atmosphere.
To be quite honest, I felt uncomfortable for the first time. I couldn’t put my finger on why but Livingston just didn’t seem like a place I wanted to hang around in for long.
I’ve worked in a day tripper destination before so I can totally sympathise with anyone who is intolerant of tourists invading their daily life. I’d never write a place off if there isn’t a friendly welcoming party because I’ve certainly been a grouch towards tourists before.
Jacob stopped at a bakery to pick up some coconut bread. He’d been looking forward to it all day and had taken great pleasure in talking it up to everyone on the journey. He was chatting with the ladies in the shop and sharing his purchases with us, explaining the differences between all the wares in the shop when a man interrupted us.
“You don’t know s*** about coconut bread! That’s my coconut bread! I eat that everyday!” He shouted plenty more insults, bizzarely told us that he was from the Bronx and carried on up the hill still ranting. Why on Earth he thought that Jacob would stop a whole tour group just to insult someone’s cooking, I’ll never know. Imagine it! “Hey group, you see this bread from this bakery. It’s awful, never buy it. I’ll buy some so you can all taste how god damn terrible it is!”
That sort of put the nail in the coffin for Livingston.
We jumped back in the boat to spend the night at Catamaran Island Hotel, back up the river.
The island hotel is owned by Kevin and his wife and is set in tropical gardens that hide wooden cabins. Some of the cabins back straight onto the river for you to enjoy a private verandah and sunning spot. Of course, we didn’t have one but I was determined to leap into the Rio Dulce for a dip whether it was off a private deck or not.
I love swimming but I really, really love a bit of wild swimming. It’s just so much more fun. I climbed up a pole on the corner of the deck, precariously balanced at the top on one foot and jumped straight in.
Something was missing. That bracing, shocking cold that rips straight through you and makes you gasp was gone. The Rio Dulce was the temperature of a paddling pool that had sat in the sun all day. It was glorious.
I emerged giggling and happily splashed around the banks and decks of the island. It was easiest the widest river I’ve ever swum in and I was cautious about being clipped by passing catamarans or jet ski! I tried convincing a few friends to join me but I think I need to work on my persuasive skills – I probably shouldn’t have told them about the fish that were nibbling on my legs. They much preferred the pool and happy hour cocktails.